- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 21, 2002

Zacarias Moussaoui's sealed court pleadings contain secretly coded messages to at-large al Qaeda members that would be dangerous if shown to reporters covering the accused September 11 conspirator's trial, the government said this week.
"The least restrictive means [of] preventing the defendant from sending messages to other members of al Qaeda," is to keep many of his handwritten pleadings under seal, prosecutors said in court papers.
"[Moussaoui] cannot be allowed simply to put a caption on his messages to other al Qaeda members, file them with the court, and thereby broadcast them to the world," the prosecutors argued.
Prosecutors filed the papers Thursday in response to a series of motions put forward earlier in the week by major news organizations, who want Moussaoui's pleadings to be unsealed. In August, U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema ordered many of the pleadings off-limits to the public on grounds they contain racial slurs and repeated threats directed at her.
The Tribune Co., ABC, the Associated Press, CNN, CBS, The Washington Post, USA Today, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press argued that by sealing the pleadings, the judge is blocking "the public's First Amendment and common-law rights of access to judicial records."
Court sources told The Washington Times yesterday that Judge Brinkema is expected to make a ruling on the matter or hold a pre-trial hearing on it next week in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, where Moussaoui's case is being heard.
Moussaoui, 34, who is defending himself in the court, is accused of taking actions similar to those of the 19 hijackers who carried out the September 11 attacks, including enrolling in flight school. Prosecutors said he would have been "the 20th hijacker" had he not been in custody for immigration violations when the attacks occurred.
During a pre-trial hearing in a packed courtroom on July 18, Moussaoui referred to September 11 by saying that as a self-proclaimed member of al Qaeda, he knows "who done it." He also said undercover FBI agents participated in the attacks one even riding on a hijacked airplane.
In a barely legible handwritten pleading filed in June, Moussaoui expressed a desire "to expose the covert conspiracy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to prosecute me."
A French citizen of Moroccan descent, Moussaoui is charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism, pirate aircraft, destroy aircraft, use weapons of mass destruction, murder U.S. government employees and destroy property. The government will seek the death penalty if he is convicted.
However, a new twist in the already unusual case emerged Monday, when a man whose name is mentioned repeatedly in Moussaoui's indictment, was taken into U.S. custody in Pakistan.
Ramzi Binalshibh is believed by prosecutors to have "wired approximately $14,000 to Moussaoui in Oklahoma from train stations in Duesseldorf and Hamburg, Germany" in August 2001, according to court papers.
Moussaoui's indictment says Binalshibh shared an apartment in Hamburg with hijacker Mohamed Atta, widely believed to have been the lead al Qaeda member involved in carrying out the attacks. Moussaoui's trial is tentatively scheduled to begin in January.

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